A severe case of bird flu was detected in Chile in a 53-year-old man who is now said to be in a stable condition. Also known as avian influenza, bird flu is a type A influenza virus that spreads between wild and domesticated birds and is lethal to them. The infection can also be passed from birds to humans and usually causes mild illness such as cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle ache and conjunctivitis. However sometimes it can potentially have life-threatening complications from pneumonia to sepsis. (Also read: Bird Flu outbreak: Warning signs of avian influenza in humans)

Bird flu or A(H5N1) virus is not found to be spread from person to person and its transmission from birds to humans is also rare(Shutterstock)
Bird flu or A(H5N1) virus is not found to be spread from person to person and its transmission from birds to humans is also rare(Shutterstock)

Bird flu or A(H5N1) virus is not found to be spread from person to person and its transmission from birds to humans is also rare. However, unprotected contact with wild birds or domestic birds that look sick can cause severe disease in humans. The A(H5N1) virus has only been sporadically detected in European poultry or wild birds until 2021.

"There has been a spurt in human cases of avian influenza in 2022. All reported human cases since last year have been identified in humans with recent poultry exposure, and no cases of human-to-human transmission have been identified. To date, the circulating H5NY strain of influenza A does not cause severe disease in humans. However, because of the potential for the influenza virus to rapidly evolve and to have wide global prevalence and danger of pandemics, surveillance in animals and humans is essential," says Dr Vineeta Taneja - Director - Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.

What is bird flu and how does it spread

H5N1 influenza virus or bird flu has very limited transmission but extremely high fatality rate.

"Bird flu is also known as Avian Influenza. It is a type of infection occurring mainly in birds. It may also spread in humans through unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with bird flu viruses or due to direct contact with infected birds. Human to human transmission is very rare and has only spread to a few people but it is possible that the bird flu virus may change and gain the ability to disseminate easily between people and therefore, close monitoring is required," says Dr. Santosh Kumar Agrawal, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Marengo Asia Hospital Faridabad.

Symptoms of bird flu

“In India, the outbreak of bird flu has been reported in several states in recent years, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Kerala. The H5N1 strain of the virus is considered to be highly pathogenic, meaning it can cause severe illness in humans. Symptoms of the disease may include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and respiratory distress. Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a viral infection that affects birds, particularly wild waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, but can also spread to domestic poultry. In some cases, the virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, leading to serious illness or even death," says Dr. Ather Pasha – Consultant, General Medicine, CARE Hospitals, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.

"Symptoms of bird flu virus infections in humans may range from no symptoms or mild illness such as redness of eyes (conjunctivitis) or mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms to severe (like pneumonia). Infected people may also present symptoms like fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny or congested nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulty. There are lesser common symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures. If the symptoms are left untreated, Bird flu may pose the risk of serious and life-threatening complications like pneumonia, kidney dysfunction, respiratory failure, sepsis (blood infection) and heart problems," says Dr Agarwal.

"The symptoms of bird flu in humans are very similar to other influenza viruses and include high temperature, aching muscles, runny nose, headache, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms develop after a variable incubation period of 1-7 days after exposure. Even though the current number of cases is not very high, humans do not have natural immunity to the virus and have a higher risk of developing severe disease," says Dr Taneja.

Severe symptoms of bird flu

In extremely rare cases, bird flu can turn fatal and one can develop pneumonia, respiratory distress or sepsis.

"The symptoms of severe bird flu can include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and multi-organ failure. These complications can be life-threatening and may require hospitalization and intensive care," says Dr Pasha.

"It is important to note that not all cases of bird flu in humans result in severe illness. In fact, many people who have been infected with the virus have only experienced mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, individuals who are at a higher risk of developing severe illness include those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and older adults. Preventative measures such as avoiding contact with sick or dead birds, practicing good hygiene, and cooking poultry thoroughly can reduce the risk of contracting bird flu. If you experience any symptoms of illness after contact with birds or poultry, it is important to seek medical attention immediately," adds Dr Pasha.

Preventive measures

"Prevention measures include minimizing contact with wild birds or sick or dead poultry, wearing gloves and N95 masks while handling birds, practicing good hand hygiene, and avoiding contact with surfaces that may be contaminated with bird saliva, mucus, or faeces. Additionally, it is important to cook poultry thoroughly and avoid consuming raw or undercooked poultry," says Dr Pasha.

Follow more stories on Facebook & Twitter

Source link